Repetition of Direction
Lewis Hine’s photograph of workers on the Empire State Building gets its power from the three repeating diagonals cutting the image. The angle of view emphasises the elevation of the workers while the opposing diagonal of the lower support plank, jutting into space, adds to the sense of danger to the image.
The three workers are focused on a point right at the centre of the image, but the strong repeating diagonals give the photo a powerful feeling of tension and movement. The low sun and heavy background fog amplify the drama of this image.
Hine has been able to use a fairly small aperture to get all the action in sharp focus and still have a soft, lost mid toned background due to the heavy atmosphere. The mid grey wedges of background provide a stark tonal contrast to the shadows and highlights of the subject, adding to the feeling of distance and separation from the city below.
Lewis Hine (1874-1940) Three Riveters, Empire State Building, 1931 Silver gelatin print